Mykki Blanco: OC’s Long Lost Hip-Hop Icon

Mykki Blanco, real name Michael David Quattlebaum Jr., was born in Fountain Valley, CA in 1986. While that’s the only connection the performance artist turned rapper shares with Orange County, there’s no doubt Blanco has grown to be a modern-day hip-hop icon over the past five years, destroying heteronormativity in the genre as an openly queer MC with lyrical skill and delivery far surpassing many cis-straight artists. She now feels her debut album Mykki is finally gaining her recognition from the music establishment.

After coming out as HIV positive in June 2015, Blanco nearly broke away from music entirely. Luckily, French producer Woodkid convinced her to continue making music, and to begin working on a debut album. Blanco began working with Woodkid and Jeremiah Meece on the music in Paris and Chicago, and spent three months sober in the woods of North Carolina to get essential “decompression” to write songs. Woodkid notably produced a new sound for Blanco, as the artist began to experiment with pop sounds, and singing on the track Loner which has now become a new sonic direction for her.

“I think for my career, it kinda makes sense to continue to try other things than just straight rapping. I’ve never been a part of the mainstream hip-hop world,” Blanco said, “but the strength of what I’ve done is I’ve created my own fan base, Cakes has created his own fan base, we’ve found people across the world there were really into what we were doing, and so I feel that when it becomes that dynamic, you feel even less boxed in, because I’ve never fit into those rules, so I now don’t even have to play by them.”

That fan base definitely grew over the years, and changed for Blanco since so many things that people found weird are now accepted among his crowds with a stronger amount of public dialogue about the LGBTQ+ community. Blanco also feels that the new crowds, especially the younger audiences, are really feeling a sense of empowerment from her performances. “So much of the music establishment finally feels like they can talk about me,” she says. Since her album dropped in September last year, the reception all coincide’s with what she describes as her “Saturn’s return.”

“I just think that at some point in your life, depending on how much shit you put yourself through or you went through as a kid, everyone reaches this point where you have to deal with your issues as an adult,” Blanco said. “I feel like definitely 27, 28, 29 were really hard years on me, because i don’t think I really understood what it truly meant to be an adult in this way where you’re like accountable for everything that happens. In those years, I really did have to deal with a lot of things I had put off, or emotional things I hadn’t dealt with, but I feel like if I hadn’t dealt with them, my life would be in a complete spiral.”

Blanco plans on continuing to do mixtapes, but hopes to create a future album in the next five years that will be “organic and chill.” You can expect far more from Blanco in the future, as she started her own label Dog Food Music Group, and is currently working on her own interview/travel show with an LGBTQ+ spin.

“I want to continue to write, I plan on writing a book, I want to continue to do things in entertainment, and acting, and stuff like that,” Blanco said. “The way I’m going hard right now, I know I have to continue to get to where I want to be, but I think when I feel I’m at that place, when I feel like I can branch out to other forms of entertainment, that will make me happy. I can’t rap forever.”

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